Painted veil. Plot summary
Somerset Maugham uses a third-person - limited, point-of-view in this story, where Kitty is the Focal character. Kitty Garstin, a very pretty upper-middle class debutante, squanders her early youth amusing herself at cotillions and social events - during which her domineering mother attempts to arrange a “brilliant match” for her. By age 25, Kitty has flirted with – and declined the marriage proposals of – dozens of suitors. Her mother, convinced that her eldest daughter has “missed her market”, urges Kitty to settle for the rather “odd” Walter Fane, a bacteriologist and M.D., who is madly in love with Kitty. In a panic that her much younger – and less attractive - sister, Doris, will upstage her by marrying first, Kitty consents to Walter’s ardent marriage proposition with the words, “I suppose so.” Shortly before Doris’ much grander wedding, Kitty and Walter depart as newlyweds to his post in Hong Kong. Just weeks after settling in the Far East, Kitty meets Charles Townsend, the Assistant Colonial Secretary. He is tall, handsome, able and extremely charming, and they begin to have an affair. Almost two years hence, Walter, unsuspecting, and still devoted to his wife, observes Kitty and Charles during an assignation, and the lovers, suspecting they’ve been discovered, reassure themselves that Walter will not intervene in the matter. Charles promises Kitty that, come what may, he will stand by her. Aware that the cuckolded Walter is his administrative inferior, Charles feels confident that the bacteriologist will avoid scandal to protect his career and reputation. For her part, Kitty, who has never felt real affection for her husband, grasps that, in fact, he is fully aware of her infidelity (though he initially refrains from confronting her) and she begins to despise his apparent cowardice. She discerns, however, an ominous change in his demeanor, masked by his “scrupulously polite”...
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